UK prisoners allowed to make mobile phone calls to facilitate rehabilitation

Prisoners will soon be allowed to make mobile phone calls from their cells using a restricted network under a new government drive to improve rehabilitation.

Currently, prisoners are restricted to using landline payphones within the prison, giving them little privacy during conversations and causing long queues and frustration amongst other prisoners.

This has caused a surge in illegal phones being smuggled into prison institutions, which brings other risks associated with having unlimited access to communications with the outside world.

However, Justice Secretary David Gauke is due to announce plans to invest £7m to introduce in-cell telephones for more jails in England and Wales.

The technology is already in place at 20 establishments and plans are under way to extend the scheme to another 20 over the next two years.

Officials emphasised that in-cell phones are subject to strict security measures. All calls are recorded, users can only call a small number of pre-approved numbers and active monitoring can be introduced if there is any suspicion that the service is being abused in pursuit of criminal activity.

Prisoners will also continue to pay to make the phone calls, the MoJ added.

The new policy comes in stark contrast to draft legislation that was tabled last year that would have seen mobile phone signals being blocked in prisons

The latest move forms part of wider efforts to improve inmates’ ability to maintain ties with relatives after they are jailed, which is seen as a key factor in reducing the chances of returning to crime.

Last year, a report by Lord Farmer found that good family relationships are “indispensable” to the Government’s prison reform plans.

In a speech, Gauke will say: “Decency also extends to how we treat prisoners - fairly and consistently, with time out of their cells, activities and the opportunity to maintain family relationships.

“As Lord Farmer made clear in his ground-breaking review last year, supportive relationships are critical to achieving rehabilitation.”

The announcement on in-cell phones forms part of a £30m package to improve safety, security and decency across the prison estate following several years of surging levels of violence, self-harm and drug use.

In another step, every prisoner will be given a “risk rating” under plans to choke off the influence of criminal kingpins behind bars.

Inmates will be assessed according to their chances of taking part in violence, escapes, disturbances and gang activity.

The new digital tool - which is being rolled out across the estate following a pilot in 16 jails - compiles data from law enforcement databases and prison incident reports.

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